Sydney Ellen, may not be a household name yet but she is on her way. With the emergence of strong women musicians, particularly guitar players, girls don’t just have to be Pop Stars anymore. Sydney, is becoming a real player in the, “YouTube & Instagram Game” and has even been featured on the YouTube series, “My Favorite Riff” hosted by Motley Crue founder Nikki Sixx. She is slowly acquiring a trophy case that is stocked to the rafters with accolades including 2017 Riffwars Hall of Fame Nominee – Best Classic Rock Female, 2016 RockwiredMagazine’s 25 Top Favorite Guitarists, 2015 Queen of Strings Finalist, 2015 ReverbNation Featured Artist, 2014’s HMMA Awards Rock Song of the Year (MXI) & OC Music Awards People’s Choice Award Nominee, 2013’s Playstation Home Featured Artist (MXI) & Golden Key Award – Songwriting and Music Video Production and Specialized Talent Achievement Award – Performing Arts, 2012’s Rock Guitar Goddess Award & Superior Product Content – Sound Engineering, 2011 Songwriting and Recording – Multi Instrumentalist Award and finally the 2008 Orange County Songwriting and Music Composition Award. Her star only continues to rise. She currently has a crowd sourcing effort in the works through IndieGoGo for her forthcoming album and is also weighing other business options including film scoring, teaching and bring music to the masses. Not only is she kicking in the door to the Boy’s Club that was Rock n Roll, but she a part of a women’s revolution in rock.
Sydney is following in the steps of the pioneers everyone has heard of like Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Nancy Wilson with her outstanding guitar work. However, she is doing it with precision and tone alongside a few other women currently found on your air waves like Lizzy Hale, Orianthi and Nita Strauss. While the overall music portrait being painted today is that Rock Music is dead, these women are pioneering a new model of Rock that just might catch you off guard and turn you on to something new.
JF- Tell us a little bit about your journey. Do you remember when you started playing? How old were you and what really inspired you to pick up a guitar?
SE- Yes! Well I was always around great music when I was a kid – classic rock, funk, motown, pop. I had played the piano starting at the age of 5 or 6, but I remember the exact moment I decided I wanted to play the guitar. I was about 12 at the time and “Black Dog” by Led Zeppelin started playing on the radio. I remember being immediately blown away by the power, tone, and energy of the electric guitar in that song. I then bugged my (very supportive) family to help me learn guitar. I always mention how much of an obsession guitar has been for me, and I think that obsession since day one is what fueled me to continue to learn more about the instrument.
JF- What were some of the difficulties you had learning guitar at such an early age? What were your frustrations coming up and what was your practice schedule like?
SE- Looking back there were definitely some difficulties… forming certain chord shapes, or developing strength. At the time I really didn’t see them as difficulties, I think I was just so happy to play guitar that I didn’t care. Or maybe I liked the challenge of it. My practice schedule at a young age grew more focused each year. Eventually it turned into my whole summer break spent practicing guitar 3-4 hours a day with every minute scheduled. I’m glad I had the patience and the mindset back then to see the end goal.
JF- Was there someone you really looked up to as a young player and said, “I’m going to be them”?
SE- Joan Jett was a huge inspiration for me as a female guitar player! I’ve always looked up to Prince as well as a musician.
JF- Do you remember the first album you bought? Well for you, you’re so young it may not have been an album. What about download?
SE- Haha I bought CD’s! Lots of Zeppelin, Tom Petty, and Joan Jett! I’m sure the first CD was Zeppelin!
JF- Talk to us a little about the Social Media aspect of your life and playing. How did that come about and was it tough getting the courage to post that first clip?
SE- The best part about Social Media, is the ability to connect with so many people. Getting started on Social Media took me some time, I was definitely worried about the ‘time wasting’ aspect of it. I try to not let Social Media consume all of my time. But again, there’s a great benefit to it being able to connect with people. I remember a small group of guitar players on Instagram who would post 30 second clips of guitar riffs. I thought that might be fun and I’m a guitar riff lover myself so I decided to post a few videos. It was tough to post each clip, just because I’m a perfectionist, but I had gotten a positive response so I decided to continue sharing guitar videos!
JF- How did you come to being a guest on the Nikki Sixx show, “My Favorite Riff”?
SE- Nikki was so incredibly kind to invite me on his show. I had a great time talking about music with him and hearing his thoughts on a few of my favorite riffs and artists. As mentioned before, I am pretty active on Social Media. He stumbled across one of my videos on Instagram (Stairway to Heaven) and thought it would be great to have me on his show! It was a fun video shoot! Both Nikki and his team are very nice!
JF- You always hear a lot about the famous, Berklee School of Music. You are a graduate and a prestigious one at that, graduating Summa Cum Laude. Can you shine a little light on what goes into getting into the program and your life there at Berklee?
SE- Berklee was a perfect fit for the type of school I wanted to go to. The audition process took a bit of prep for me, and I knew Berklee could help me both find what I wanted to do with music, and help me learn as much as I could. Again, this goes back to the practice obsession haha! It was through Berklee that I re-discovered my love for film music and writing for an orchestra. Berklee became a big piece of my life, mainly because of all the other musicians I met. The students and the Berklee staff we’re all supportive and kind people which made the experience so memorable and amazing!
JF- What was your first guitar and what are you playing now? Is there any piece of dream equipment you are still searching for?
SE- My first guitar was a Fender Squier Strat! I was the only guitar player in my family, so they took me to a guitar shop and had me pick the guitar that felt right! Right now, my main guitar is an ESP Eclipse Silver Sparkle! My dream guitar was a Gibson Les Paul Custom, which I had waited very patiently for the right time to come around. After that guitar I felt pretty complete! And the ESP Silver Sparkle was a complete impulse buy, that guitar found me to be honest. Right now, I’m really happy with my gear setup…but as we all know the obsession over gear never ends, I try to not go too crazy.
JF- It’s no secret about you love of Led Zeppelin and all things Jimmy Page. So, I would imagine there is a place deep in your heart for Les Paul style guitars. You do have a relationship with Fender Guitars though, can you talk a little about that?
SE- You’re right about that one! Currently I’m one of the guitar instructors on Fender Play: An online center for video guitar lessons made by the one and only Fender. It’s been an absolute joy to be a part of the Fender team for Fender Play. These lesson videos are designed to be short, easy to digest lesson videos for anyone looking to pick up the guitar and get playing fast! FP users can choose a designated path for guitar depending on what you want to learn: rock, blues, pop and more. I’ve always been a big supporter of online learning so again, I’m happy to be a part of this! Anyone can sign up for a free trial at – fender.com/play
JF- You do a lot of things to stay busy as far as your career. A lot of musicians feel if they aren’t in a band they just aren’t in the business or chasing the dream, but you have really found creative ways to not only stay busy but become a fixture in this business on many fronts. All while working on your own album. In a way it is really a great blue print for young musicians to stay active and not lose touch with their dreams. What can you tell us about your day to day schedule and how can I get Sydney Ellen lessons?
SE- Thank you! I do my best to stay busy. And I am grateful that I get to play guitar every day. I always say that playing guitar for hours was all my 12-year-old heart wanted, so I’m grateful that I do play guitar for living! Each day can be different, but mainly each day I try to get some exercise, being healthy and developing strength is important as a guitarist. Usually in the morning I try to practice for upcoming shows or work on any current songs being written. The rest of the day consists of either managing my guitar school, or teaching guitar with my students or on set. And in between the day I’m answering emails and planning what’s next!
JF- You have a great single that’s been out for a while now it seems called, “Say Goodbye” featuring a friend of yours Moxy Anne. It has the amazing riff at the start that I just love. Tell us a little about what you are working on now and what is to come?
SE- Thank you! That was such a fun song to write! I’m so happy with how it turned out. Right now, I’m working on music for a new EP. This will stay true to the classic rock vibe, this time I’m looking to add a ballad, and continuing with some riff-based songs too! Anything can change, so it’ll be interesting to see how everything turns out in the end.
JF- I would be remiss if I didn’t address the emergence and really revolution that is taking place in music right now in terms of strong female guitar players. They have always been in the Rock World with notably Nancy Wilson, Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Now more than ever though it seems they are beginning to really dominate not only the music side but the business too. Players like Orianthi, Nita Strauss, Lizzy Hale are not only making music, but also creating signature model gear that is amazing. While it may seem like a Women’s Revolution, it has really been more of a slow burn, I think. Do you have any thoughts on this surgency of female guitar players rising to the top and how do we get you in the conversation?
SE- There are many talented female guitar players rising to the top! As someone who’s been playing guitar for a while now it’s been amazing to see the growth over the years. The world of Social Media has come in handy for all of us as far as getting the word out. The female guitar community tends to stick together and support each other. And each of us has our own unique style and type of gear we use. I’ve always loved that, we all understand how tough the music industry can be, so it’s important to cheer for your fellow guitar friends. We’re all here playing guitar because we have a love for the instrument and music. When you’re on your own it can seem like you’re the only one with this passion, but it’s amazing when the female guitar community gets together and you can see new players each year. In my experience people have been really welcoming as far as supporting female artists. Occasionally someone doesn’t like seeing a girl out ‘shred’ them. But this happens because we know how to work hard and put in the hours to sound great on our instrument, as any hardworking musician knows regardless of gender. The best thing to do if you want to support your favorite female artist, is to share their music, share their videos, and show up to their shows. One opportunity leads to the next!
JF- What is next for Sydney Ellen?
SE- Next up is the release of my new EP “Imperfect”! The EP is currently being funded on IndieGoGo! If the funding goal is reached within the timeframe then I’ll be able to record and release the EP at a scale that I’ve always wanted. This includes package bundles with t-shirts, CD’s and more. The campaign is doing really well so far and there’s still time left for anyone who wants to support! This was a project and adventure I have been wanting to try for a while. So, I decided I better try it out now or I’ll never know! So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive and my current fans are excited to hear some new SE songs! Here’s the link to the campaign – igg.me/at/sydneyellen
JF- Now looking toward your future, who would be your dream collaboration?
SE- Hmm… I’d have to say Heart! Their live shows have been absolutely perfect, and I’ve always respected their accuracy when covering Led Zeppelin.
JF- What is one of your guilty musical pleasures right now?
SE- I have two favorite pop artists right now, Arianna Grande and Demi Lovato. Both are such talented vocalists!
You may or may not be a Rock fan, but there is no denying the talent and ability of Sydney Ellen. She brings not only prolific ability as a musician, she brings a tone and feel that is missing in Rock Music today. Sydney is one of many female musicians making their way in today’s music business. That business isn’t just making albums and touring nowadays. There are lucrative options for all musicians to help keep their music dreams alive now like online tutorials, merchandising, equipment spokespeople and for the top tier musicians signature model gear produced to their exact specifications and sold globally. Growing up on music and having it really guide my life, I can really appreciate what Sydney Ellen is doing. It gives hope not only for young girls finding their passions in life, but it gives hope to music and the arts overall.
Photos Courtesy of Jack Lue
Photos Courtesy of Jack Lue
Photos Courtesy of Jack Lue
Album Art by Aramis Rose
If you would like to check Sydney’s IndieGoGo campaign see the link below:
Sydney can be found on social media at the links below:
As Well As iTunes